I have no images to represent self-isolation yet so the featured image is instead a meme about supporting other PhD students because self-isolation feels a little like embarking on a PhD to me, exciting at first but actually incredibly terrifying in a way that challenges us to understand ourselves better…
Self-isolation is an opportunity to connect with yourself, your household, your sense of safety and security as it is connected to your home and your relationship with yourself. It is also an opportunity to challenge your working practices and connect to why you choose to engage in the work that you do.
I wrote this post first for myself on the third day of voluntary self-imposed isolation in my home after several cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in my hometown. As a researcher, I am encouraged to listen to experts. Experts are screaming at us to self-isolate if we can. I am a PhD candidate, an independent academic researcher, and a freelance educator. I can create from anywhere so I am included in the category of people who can self-isolate. Everyone should self-isolate if they can to slow the spread of COVID-19 and avoid overwhelmingly the healthcare system because self-isolating will drastically reduce fatality rates. Currently, many people do not have the option to self-isolate because their workplaces are forcing them to continue going to work, or because their work is essential to keep our society functioning.
I wrote this post, first, as a journal exercise because I struggle with working from home. I struggle with being productive at home because of distractions and because I do not like to be alone for long periods of time. I have been learning how to sit with loneliness and boredom over the past few years, and to embrace time alone. This period of isolation is going to test the skills I have learned as well as my commitment to supporting and nourishing myself.
I wrote this post, second, for anyone else who is dreading the prospect of working from home or has been struggling with self-isolation already. I created this post by thinking about what is most important to me and what I need to create the best environment for my health and wellbeing. We will never be disadvantaged by thinking about what is important to us and how we can support ourselves.
For me, continuing to work is very important because it is connected to my sense of purpose. This post is not for people who hate their work but need to continue working from home regardless. This post is for people who believe their work is important, for themselves and for others, but who struggle to structure their days in a sustainable and productive day.
The following headings represent each of the five areas that I identified as essential components for myself to survive and thrive self-isolation. I imagine they are unlikely to be a perfect fit for many other people but I hope that they encourage you to think about what are the most essential components for you to thrive each day, in self-isolation and beyond.
Prepare yourself and your space for the day. Notice what nourishes you and what depletes you.
This can look like:
- Preparing and eating delicious and nutritious food
- Cleaning and caring for your home
- Limiting intake of information or phone use
- Taking time away draining activities, like endless scrolling and engaging in panic
Give yourself time to ease into creating, whatever that looks like for you, by thinking about how you feel and why. Ease into thinking about the purpose of your work and what you want to achieve.
- Free writing your thoughts and emotions
- How you cultivate pleasure in your life – what brings you joy and energises you
- Ways to connect in and through crisis
- Your skills and their usefulness to you and others
Working from home
- Writing down specific thoughts about work
- Planning outlines and taking notes to form structures
- Reading sources that stimulate thinking
Produce work, whether you are editing, writing, or supporting that work in some way is creating. Creating happens at every stage of work and includes current and future plans just as much as what you have already created.
Remind yourself that your work is important and how it relates to times of crisis and beyond
Keep the importance of you work in mind while writing to ensure the work is intentional and therefore better positioned to be impactful.
Plan future work
Use this time to think about what work matters, where it will go, and how/who you want to interact with it.
This one is harder because for many of us, me included, connection is physical. However, connecting is part of what makes us human and is essential for most of us, definitely me. For me, I need to cultivate my connection to the people I love, to people who care about similar issues to me or think similarly about the world, and to my broader community. I currently do not know my neighbours and am not connected to my local community. My broader community has usually been work-related in some way.
Call loved ones
Make a list of everyone you want to call and tick as you reach out, or call people as they pop into your head
Connect your acquaintances
Make group messages for people you know, but not well, and make sure people have what they need
Consider first what you can offer and think about what you will do for those who you cannot help. Can you connect them with someone who can?
Check in on like-minded strangers
This might mean social media connections who you are not yet close to, people in Facebook groups, colleagues who you have only corresponded with via email.
Or this might mean building connection with like-minded people if you have not already.
Find ways to connect with local community
First, define your local community. Is it your neighbours, council area, or something else?
Then, look for the ways that people in that locality are already connected. This might mean hobby specific local groups, like gardening, or through buy/swap/sell groups, or larger neighbourhood groups, like council initiatives.
Find ways to help in the broader community
For me, this is about advocating for and supporting others who I do not know. It is essential to first identify what you can offer. Perhaps connecting people to each other, making calls, drawing awareness to issues, making deliveries, or identifying at-risk people. Next, it is essential to not reinvent the wheel. Look at what others are already doing and what you can give your, financial or otherwise, support to.
Some ideas I had today were:
How to help individuals survive and thrive in self-isolation
Building connection groups for strangers to have conversations and find others for conversations
Virtual skill sharing such as creative uses for things in your home, cooking with minimal ingredients or from scratch, craft tutorials via Zoom, gardening skills
Making sure people have access to fresh food
Connecting local market suppliers to get fresh food to others
Coordinating deliveries to keep people using local informal suppliers without venturing to markets where they will be at risk
Identifying formal and informal food banks to volunteer or donate to, financially or by offering delivery services
Ways to pressure governments and workplaces to allow as many people as possible to self-isolate
Creating lists of workplaces who are forcing non-essential employees to go to physical workplaces, or who are forcing employees to use annual leave while in lock down
Creating lists of workplaces acting responsibly to support after lockdowns are over – businesses who closed proactively, paid workers, moved to delivery only
Creating and/or sharing lists of people who are out of work due to cancellations or closures to support financially
Considering how to bypass PayPal fees to maximise the money being donated to individuals – pressuring PayPal to waive all fees or identifying Australian-only (or otherwise local to wherever you are) lists of people to pay to bypass fees
Finally, I thought about finding time and ways to move while self-isolating. This is what that looks like for me, other people might embrace more cardio or strength training and have tips on how to facilitate this at home.
Time outside – in the garden, reading, writing in the sun
Dancing, yoga, and other gentle physical movement that makes me feel calm or happy
Avoiding staying stagnant for too long – type standing up when appropriate, limit time laying down or sitting, taking regular breaks, avoiding working in bed, switching tasks regularly or when they become overwhelming or frustrating
This piece is designed to be a conversation starter.
Writing this piece helped me to feel at ease with the possibility of staying inside my home for several weeks. It is not meant to be a one-size-fits-all approach.
Please share and talk with your networks, including in comment threads, about how to survive self-isolation and how you might support yourself to thrive in this environment.
Please share tips with each other and create your own prompts to share.